2012 has been a very interesting year for animated features as Pixar has lost a little bit of its luster as the dominant studio and competition like Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox have risen to a much more respectable level. You can now throw Laika Entertainment in to the ring as well with a surprisingly entertaining stop motion animated effort from the people that previously brought Coraline to movie-going audiences.
Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is anything but normal as he has the ability to see and communicate with ghostly apparitions. For this, he is labelled an outcast not only by his classmates at school, but also by his very own family who believes he is making it all up anyway. As the young boy continues to deal with his abnormal ability, a plot begins brewing among some unsavory types regarding an ancient curse that has been haunting the town for centuries.
Next thing you know, there are ghosts and zombies all over town and Norman discovers something about his past that shows him how only he can save his friends and family from certain destruction. Enlisting the help of his only friend Niel (Tucker Albrizzi) along with his sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) and her would be suitor Mitch (Casey Affleck), Norman sets off on an amazing adventure that is certain to end in peril and disaster...except for the fact that he's the hero of the movie.
The first thing you need to know about Paranorman is how it is just a good, quality story that just happens to also look pretty darn amazing at the same time. The stop motion effects are so well done you'd almost think the movie was computer animated and the use of color, lighting, and shadows all do a great job projecting a lighthearted horror movie vibe that's more old school Hollywood than modern CGI-fest cinema.
First time director Chris Butler also wrote the movie and has worked previously on Coraline, Corpse Bride, and The Tigger Movie which have all given him a solid foundation for this type of work and it shows. With a cast that includes everyone from John Goodman and Bernard Hill to Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Leslie Mann along with all the names previously mentioned, its no wonder Paranorman has turned out to be such a fun little movie that you are sure to enjoy.